The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne

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Abstract

[Extract] Two images form central motifs in Walerian Borowczyk’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981). The first is a portrait of Jekyll’s father, a severe Victorian gentleman posed in profile. The second is a painting of a heavily pregnant woman in a quiet moment of absorption – Vermeer’s A Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1663-4). Both are held up as ideals of sorts, the former adorns the wall of Jekyll’s laboratory; the latter is displayed as an aspirational image of romanticised domesticity. That these images are ideals is only half their story: their stillness is in stark contrast to the film’s otherwise vital style. Rigid and unchanging, these portraits exemplify the film’s fundamental tensions between identity as fixed and fluid, the constraints of Victorian respectability, and the will to unbridled hedonism. By the film’s end both images will have been defaced and destroyed, cast into a fire fed with signifiers of an overturned bourgeoisie.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSenses of Cinema
Issue number79
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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